Laces Out: Florida has a quarterback conundrum, Michigan and Arkansas find success going old school
College football never fails to satisfy. If this season’s early rash of upsets and unexpected storylines are any indication, the next three months will be an exciting ride to the finish, which is naming the four teams for the College Football Playoff.
Laces Out will direct traffic away from primary narratives and hammer down talking points of interest elsewhere as we bring you with us for a 2-minute drill of sorts every week. We’ll review what we know and look ahead at what’s to come as the remainder of the season plays out.
Now that we’ve had a couple games to assess those in and around the top 25 with takeaways beginning to evolve for most programs, let’s reset ahead of a pivotal early-season Saturday in Week 3.
Grab your tickets to the next coming out party
Florida coach Dan Mullen sees what we see and is certainly qualified to choose the right quarterback for his system given his career track record, but after two games this season, Anthony Richardson — the redshirt freshman “backup” who drew quite a bit of buzz during fall camp — has clearly outplayed redshirt junior starter Emory Jones. Both will play in Saturday’s SEC opener as the No. 11 Gators host No. 1 Alabama, Mullen says, as long as Richardson is able to practice this week with hamstring soreness.
You’ll want to keep an eye on the rotation early. Jones has thrown four interceptions thus far in wins over FAU and South Florida, each coming on telegraphed, flat passes after never looking off his primary read. As for Richardson? He’s less predictable back there and had a near-perfect performance last time out, going 3 for 3 through the air with 152 yards and two scores while adding 115 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground. In limited snaps this season, Richardson has accounted for 467 yards of total offense with a half-dozen explosive plays — the type of momentum-getters Florida needs to beat Alabama.
Alabama coach Nick Saban will have his defense ready for both Florida quarterbacks, but Richardson is the option with dynamic ability who is quickly emerging as the Gators’ next superstar at the position.
Sam Pittman’s not-so-secret weapon
Locked in through the 2023 season, Barry Odom is the highest-paid assistant in Arkansas football history … and he’s earning every cent of his contract given his overall value to the program. Odom once again confused a talented offense with a mastermind-level game plan in the Razorbacks’ 40-21 romp over then-ranked Texas. Much of the first half, Arkansas rushed three and dropped eight in coverage, bottling up Longhorns QB Hudson Card in his second career start (first on the road) while with bulldozing star running back Bijan Robinson.
The ‘Horns ran 23 plays in the first half; 11 went for no gain or a loss of yardage. Texas crossed the 50 once over the first two quarters and managed three first downs. This was a maniacal performance from Odom’s group against one of the nation’s brightest offensive minds in Texas coach Steve Sarkisian.
This veteran-laden Arkansas defense is the same unit that was a step ahead of Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss last fall, forcing QB Matt Corral into a career-worst six-interception outing. Odom knows what he’s doing on that side of the football, and he’s giving the No. 20 Razorbacks a shot at something special this fall.
Michigan star is out for blood
Remember the kids in “Little Giants” who used Alka-Seltzer as an intimidation technique at the line of scrimmage? The Wolverines have a future first-round pick in Aidan Hutchinson whose menacing snarl would even make Spike proud. He doesn’t need the fizzy stuff.
Hutchinson’s highlight tape from Michigan’s win over Washington is one producers are going to cut up throughout the season. On one play in the second quarter, he wrapped up Huskies RB Richard Newton behind the line of scrimmage with a suplex-like slam. The football squirted out before Newton crashed to the turf after Michigan’s Brad Hawkins punched it out.
The sequence was reminiscent of a mob boss taking free shots at an adversary whose arms are pinned behind his back. That’s how it felt over the weekend watching the No. 25 Wolverines, who are a win over No. 18 Wisconsin on Oct. 2 away from a perfect first half to the season.
Stage is set in Happy Valley
You want a goosebump-inducing backdrop? Tune into No. 22 Auburn at No. 10 Penn State, a matchup of nationally-ranked unbeatens under the lights at Beaver Stadium. The setting should be magical for the Nittany Lions with organizers expecting a sold-out crowd to whom white T-shirts will be provided. Auburn has scored 121 points against two morgue-tier defenses. Now, the noise level Tigers QB Bo Nix will experience during the opening possession will approach fighter jet-level volume. That will be quite an adjustment.
The No. 24 Hurricanes are hanging by a thread inside this week’s college football rankings after their narrow escape against Appalachian State that followed the Alabama beatdown in Week 1. Now, Miami hosts unbeaten Michigan State with the Canes a 6.5-point favorite. I have a feeling sharps will be on the Spartans here given the sound football we’ve seen thus far under second-year coach Mel Tucker and Miami’s inability to find its groove yet offensively.
Keep an eye on Miami’s rushing attack after losing Don Chaney Jr. to a knee injury last time out. Cam’Ron Harris will be asked to shoulder the load. Only Clemson has rushed for fewer yards in the ACC thus far as a team, and Michigan State tries to hang its hat on ferocity at the line of scrimmage.
We saw five nationally-ranked teams fall in Week 2, and this is a dangerous spot for the Canes.